But the Mormons I knew back then were fine people as I remember (there aren't many in Siouxland). I admired them greatly, reminding me, as they did, of my own tribe--hard-working, upstanding people, sometimes just a smidgen self-righteous about things. Around them, I felt as if I were home, for better or for worse.
I have some sympathy for this Texas mega-preacher, Rev. Robert Jeffress, who last week laid a jeremiad on all those fine Christians assembled at the Values Summit, in Washington, when he told them that his man, the praying Gov. Perry, was the obvious choice for Pres because the other guy, what's-his-name from Massachusetts, was a Mormon and, as everyone knows, Mormonism is a cult. Got it? There i'n't no choice.
The guy's not wrong. It's an unhealthy stretch to call Mormonism some kind of Christian religion, given the fact that it rather handily adds its own book to what Christians believe, right or wrong, is holy writ. Even though I doubt it, I've always rather liked the zany idea that Jesus Christ reappeared years ago to indigenous people in Central America somewhere. Even if he didn't, it's nice of the Mormons to think he did.
The Rev. Mr. Jeffrees wasn't wrong about Mormons.
But he was silly. Worse, he was political and God-awfully judgmental. Is it any wonder why Christians get a bad name with believers like him out-self-righteous-ing each other?
Today, the heat and warmth of the Great Awakening behind us, my American Lit class heads into the Enlightenment, life in America post 1740s, an era of political polemics, of abundant essays, of newly formed regard for the humanities as lots of folks rather gladly turned their back on "the divinities." Today, in class, there's Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, a man and mind absolutely central to American democracy, a thorough-going Deist, a man who, like Jefferson, likely rolled his eyes at the idea of Jesus Christ being God's own son.
Without him there would still be an America, I'm sure; but without him, it likely wouldn't look and feel like it does today. If America is a Christian nation, then we really ought to write Ben Franklin out of the story, and, of course, Thomas Paine too, a man Teddy Roosevelt once called "that filthy little atheist." And Jefferson. And dozens of others.
Rev. Jeffress wasn't wrong: Mormonism isn't Christianity. But what, pray tell, does that have to do with our choosing Romney as President? Or Franklin as a patriot among our blessed "founding fathers"?
I'm really tired of good, Christian people trying to out-muscle each other with righteousness. Mark me among those who believes in Jesus Christ, but who often enough can't help but think that talking about that faith isn't at all easy, and fastening it to your life like a bayonet is just plain deadly in every way.
Of course, I live in Iowa, where 150 years ago, good, good people ran the Mormons out, and just a couple months ago we voted Saint Michele Bachmann our straw-poll queen.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.